The Paoay Church was one of my most desired places to visit in Ilocos-simply because it is one of the most photographed churches in the country. This National Cultural Treasure becomes a popular tourist attraction because of its historical and architectural value.  Just by looks of this UNESCO World Heritage Site, you can easily judge that the church was built of coral blocks and stucco-plastered bricks. The building’s architecture is a unique combination of Baroque and Oriental.


The province of Ilocos Norte is probably one of the most visited tourist destinations in the Northern Luzon area. This is due to the reason that various adventures and activities are available, making it a perfect vacation destination for many. With the famous Calle Crisologo and the likes, another destination that has been tremendously receiving visitors for the past years is the Paoay Church or also called as the St. Augustine Church. This historic church was established way back in 1964 by the Augustinian friars and was completed way back in 1894 under the supervision of Fr. Antonio Estavillo.

But what makes this church even more beautiful and historical? Well, it has a three-story bell tower made up of coral stone which served as an observation area of the Katipuneros during the era when they were still fighting with the colonizers, the Spaniards. More so, it was also used during the Japanese occupation with the same purpose of being an observation deck of the Filipino guerillas.  As with the architectural design of Paoay Church, it has the combined features of Baroque, Gothic, and Oriental. In fact, the evidence of it following the Javanese influence is visible since it somehow resembles the structure and appearance of the famous largest Buddhist temple in the world located in Yogyakarta, Java Indonesia, the Borobudur temple.




 These buttresses were not only acting as support to the church but as a beautiful architectural element that made the church even wider. These buttresses do not serve only as support to the church, but as a beautiful architectural element which made the church even massive.  Paoay Church I should say is one of the most striking edifices in the country. The huge architectural structure built against or projecting from a wall which serves to support or reinforce the wall is really beautiful. It’s my first time hearing that the finishing plaster according to our guide was made of mixed sand and lime with sugarcane juice, which was boiled with mango leaves, leather, and rice straw.

It is also famous for being called the “Earthquake Baroque” church in the entire Philippines for it was built with baked bricks, coral rocks, tree sap, and lumber. As for its support or foundation, it has a total of twenty-four buttresses. The thickness of the wall is 1.67. Indeed, the Paoay Church with its strong foundation has stood the test of time. As with the occurrence of different calamities, a part of the church was damaged or ruined during the earthquake way back in 1865 and 1885. Way back in 2000 during excavation, they discovered an old skeleton along with fragmented ceramics, these now were put at the National Museum. The historical aspect of the church has been known to the locals for a long time. The tower bell, in fact, serves as a symbolism of communal activities such as weddings and the likes. The sound would usually ring loudly than usual whenever a prominent clan is getting married. Thus, it enables people to connect within the community. Now, this church is one of the UNESCO’S world heritage list, making it a place that should be treasured for the rest of its existence.


Jojo Vito Travel Blogger

The materials used for the walls of Paoay Church were a combination of coral stones and bricks. Large coral stones were used at the lower level of the walls, while bricks which were smaller and more manageable to transport, were used at the upper levels. The mortar used for the coral stones and bricks points out the desire of the builders to make sure that the church stood against natural calamities. It is nice to note also that no modern enhancements or repairs were made in the church.

The town of Paoay was also formerly known as Bombay and was formerly located in the Callaguip village before it is becoming an official barrio called as Paoay. It is about two kilometers away from the actual town proper. The way of living of people back then was simple yet meaningful. They had the “kaingin” as their source of living. The people of Paoay are called Paoayenos has the characteristics of being hospitable, adventurous, religious, and peaceful people. So, if you are now looking for the next town to visit, I suggest that you go here and see the Paoay church to witness its ancient yet fantastic grandeur.


The bell tower structured separately from the main church compliments the facade of the church. As with most churches, any bell towers were used as a communication device to the townspeople,e.g. mass, burial, etc. It is said that the  Paoay Church’s bell tower,   also played,  an explicit role in the lives of the Filipinos during the war. It has been said that the bell tower was used as an observation post by Katipuneros during the Philippine Revolution and by guerillas during the Japanese occupation.




I was expecting more at the interior of Paoay Church, but it seemed that the interiors were not as spectacular as the outer part of the church (just my opinion).

Read the rest of our Ilocos trip by clicking the links below:



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  1. Pingback: 12 MUST SEE PLACES IN  ILOCOS NORTE - Top On My List

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